Southwestern Energy Company SWN reported fourth-quarter 2018 adjusted earnings of 31 cents per share, which failed to beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 34 cents owing to lower production volumes from Fayetteville Shale. The bottom line, however, increased from the year-earlier figure of 12 cents, thanks to higher natural gas and oil prices realizations.
Quarterly operating revenues of $1,175 million beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,001 million and also improved from $809 million in fourth-quarter 2017.
Production and Realized Prices
During the fourth quarter, the company’s total production fell 2.1% year over year to 234 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe) — comprising almost 83% natural gas. This was owing to lower contributions from the Fayetteville Shale.
However, the company recorded liquids production of 6,507 thousand barrels (MBbls), representing a year-over-year increase of 38.7%. Of the total liquid production, oil accounted for 1,073 MBbls and the remaining was NGLs.
The company’s average realized gas price in the quarter, including hedges, increased to $2.48 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) from $2.12 per Mcf in the year-ago quarter. Oil was sold at $50.37 per barrel compared with the year-earlier level of $48.05. Natural gas liquids were sold at $18.49 per barrel compared with $17.99 in the prior-year quarter.
Operating income at the Exploration and Production (E&P) segment increased from $114 million in the year-ago quarter to $284 million in the December quarter of 2018. The upside was led by higher natural gas and oil realized prices.
On a per-Mcfe basis, lease operating expenses were 93 cents compared with the prior-year level of 91 cents. General and administrative expenses per unit of production declined to 18 cents from 23 cents in the prior-year quarter.
Operating income at the company’s Midstream Services segment was $68 million, up from $54 million in the year-ago quarter, thanks to almost a 46% decline in operating expenses.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, Southwestern spent $156 million and bought back 34 million shares. As of Feb 28, 2019, the company repurchased $199 million worth of shares, in accordance with the $200-million repurchase program that was authorized. This reflects the company’s commitment of returning cash to stockholders.
Total capital expenditure in the reported quarter was $209 million. The company’s total capital expenditure through 2018 was $1,248 million.
As of Dec 31, 2018, the company had $201 million in cash and cash equivalents. Southwestern’s long-term debt was $2.3 billion, which represents a debt-to-capitalization ratio of 49.5%.
Proved Reserves Decline
As of Dec 31, 2018, Southwestern reported proved reserves at 11.9 trillion cubic feet equivalent (Tcfe), lower than 14.8 Tcfe as of Dec 31, 2017.
Zacks Rank and Key Picks
Currently, Southwestern carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Meanwhile, better-ranked players in the energy space include Jones Energy Inc. JONE, Golar LNG Partners LP GMLP and Sunoco LP SUN. All the stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Jones Energy expects 2019 earnings growth of 19% year over year.
Golar LNG delivered average positive earnings surprise of 92.8% in the preceding four quarters.
Sunoco LP has average positive earnings surprise of 18.39% for the trailing four quarters.
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